Whether it’s the fear of flying, the stress of losing your luggage, or the overwhelming nature of airports that are packed with swarming people it can be stressful. On top of that, holiday travel season also means exposure to germs and disease and potential illness is one of the biggest concerns people have about airport travel when encountering people who might be carrying diseases from all areas over the world.
One infectious disease that is on many a traveler’s mind is tuberculosis. For this reason, people wear earloop masks as they travel through the airport. Now is the time to learn about the danger zones for disease in airports. Prepare yourself to stay healthy by avoiding these germ filled hot spots.
Health Risks of Airport Travel
Highly Populated Areas
The Check-In Kiosk
Spreading germs by hand is a major risk of holiday travel. And the first thing most airport travelers touch is the check-in kiosk. The kiosks are like an airport welcome mat for all germs. Since people are often touching the exact same part of the touch screen the opportunity for germ transmission is sky high. One study examined different areas of the airport to see which parts are the dirtiest. The kiosks averaged the highest number of bacterial and fungal colony-forming units (CFUs) per square inch. For that reason, be sure and pack a pocket size hand sanitizer to help keep you safe from germs. Use it right away.
Wearing an earloop mask can prevent the spread of tuberculosis, the cold and the flu. The security line is a great place to wear a mask because serpentine security lines put more passengers in close proximity than any other place in the airport. Serious health risks like tuberculosis can be spread via cough or sneeze. Because of that, the security line is another danger zone for spreading germs to other passengers.
Nothing says it’s the holidays quite like the sight of new parents with alcohol wipes on airplanes. They clean every inch of the seat their toddlers and small kids will be occupying for the next few hours. It is not a bad plan. Fine tune your cleaning by focusing on these germ hot spots. Look out for the following hot spots for germs and disease.
Airport Travel Germs
You made it through security but your germ antennae needs to be on heightened alert. Now you are mixing with not only people who are departing, but also those who have recently arrived. Keep your eyes open. More importantly, keep your hands to yourself. Many surfaces are war zones for germs.
Another real danger zone for germs is the security trays. A study completed in Finland investigated the transmission of respiratory infections. This study found that the security trays were the most infected surface passengers touched. Considering just about every person that travels has to touch the tray, it comes as little surprise. Think about what people put in these trays. You get exposed to those germs.
The Water Fountain
Nobody wants to pay $6.00 for a bottle of water. Sometimes all you want is a sip to quench your thirst. The problem is that a lot of water fountains are right outside restrooms. As a result, the button on the water fountain becomes a resting place for bacteria. You can avoid this by not touching the button directly. Better yet, avoid the water fountain altogether. The study that warned us of kiosk germs also tells us to avoid the water fountain, as well. You may be thirsty, but remember: holiday travel season means exposure to germs and disease. Better to be thirsty than sick.
The Armrest at the Gate
You feel relief because you arrive at your gate with time to spare. But beware: the armrest in the seat you’re about slide into at your gate is rife with germs. In fact, there are more germs on the arm rest than there are on the water fountain.
Do not employ your tray table unless you have to. Your laptop can sit on your lap. It’s called a laptop for a reason. The tray is full of gram positive cocci- common organisms that can create sinus and ear infections. For that reason, hold your food in your hand. Consider smaller snacks versus meals. Have your kids hold their books and devices in their laps. In short, Stay away from the tray table if you can.
Toilet Flush Button
Airlines have been turning to more touchless features in bathrooms. But the top threat on the plane remains the flush button. A recent study showed that the average flush button contained over 95,000 CFUs per square inch. Be sure to wash your hands and use hot water. Use sanitizer as a back-up. Clean up as much as you can when you go back to your seat.
Seat Belt Buckles
Everyone touches the seat belt buckle at least twice. And if the passenger uses the bathroom a few times it’s at least eight touches. With bathroom breaks in between. Not everyone washes their hands like they should. You get the picture.
Once you handle your baggage be mindful of your hands. Your suitcase has been all over the place. You have no idea who has been touching your luggage or how sick they are. Because of this, be sure to sanitize your hands after touching your bags. Wipe down your bags when you get to your destination
Preventative Care When Flying
There are many health risks related to travel. Those risks rise as we enter the holiday travel season. Some easy preventative care steps can go a long way in protecting you against dangerous diseases like tuberculosis. A little planning and precaution can go a long way when traveling.
Many countries in Asia still have high rates of tuberculosis. For that reason, travelers considering a trip to Asia or any other high-incidence tuberculosis country should consider an earloop mask. It is not just for airports. Travelers into countries like China, Japan and Korea will notice people wearing them away from airports, as well. Although some doctors don’t feel the earloop mask is wildly effective, many people believe it can help prevent the spread of germs from people who cough and sneeze.
Carry hand sanitizer with you at all times in airports. It’s never a bad thing to have a little alcohol on hand to help kill germs when a sink is not near. There is some concern that depending too much on hand sanitizer can actually lower your resistance to disease. But in the crunch of stressful holiday travel, it’s best to keep some on hand.
Heightened Risk Depends on Country
Holiday travel season means exposure to germs and disease no matter where you go. Because of the threat of tuberculosis transmission, be particularly careful traveling to Asia. Specifically, China, India and Pakistan. Diseases like tuberculosis are still a major threat in those countries. If you feel like you’ve been exposed to tuberculosis, get a TB blood test as soon as possible. Also keep an eye out for updates from the Center for Disease Control who issue frequent warnings on their webpage.